Shaq says his boy has it right (it's okay for him to say it, Conor) ... telling TMZ Sports his son Shareef's claim that he'd beat LaMelo Ball in hoops is 100% accurate.

Reef talked his ish to us when we got him at LAX, telling our camera guy he likes 'Melo as a person, but when it comes down to the hardwood, he'd best the Ball brother.

We talked to Papa O'Neal out in NYC, and he told us not only does he agree with his progeny, he's proud the kid has the attitude to go along with his game.

"When you're a young up and coming player you're supposed to say you're the the greatest in the world. Is he better? Yeah, I think he's better."

So far LaVar's been quiet on the whole thing ... but we doubt that's gonna last long.

I CAN TAKE HIM
TMZSports.com